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Palestinian Parliament Delays Vote on Referendum Recognizing Israel

In the wake of violent confrontations between security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of the militant Hamas group, Palestinian leaders on Monday chose to table a decision on whether to pass a controversial referendum recognizing Israel's right to exist.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The West Bank cabinet offices of the Hamas-led Palestinian government were under siege tonight. On the attack were Palestinian security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

    In Gaza, too, the power struggle between the rival Palestinian factions escalated today. Hamas and Fatah fighters exchanged gunfire and rocket attacks in Rafah.

    Earlier in the day, the Hamas-led legislature convened, but then temporarily backed off, a vote to block President Abbas' scheduled referendum on Palestinian statehood; that referendum proposal implicitly recognizes Israel's right to exist, which Hamas has refused to do.

    The Palestinians are also embroiled in escalating violence with Israel. Last Friday, seven Palestinian civilians, including three children, were killed on the beach in Gaza, the Palestinians say, by an Israeli artillery attack.

    Israel, which has been firing into Gaza to stop rocket attacks launched from there, halted all artillery fire in the area pending a military investigation.

    DAN HALUTZ, Chief of Staff, Israeli Defense Forces: Of course, we are very sorry for the fact that innocent Palestinians were killed. That's not our way of operation; that's not our concept of operation.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The beach killings prompted Hamas to declare an end to its 16-month truce with Israel. And, over the weekend, Hamas militants in Gaza launched more than 30 rockets into southern Israel. Israelis are demanding their government do something to stop these attacks.

  • ISRAELI CITIZEN:

    People don't get out. They stay home. They don't go to school. What more? It's terrible.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Israel has been targeting and killing Palestinians that it calls Islamic terrorists. Last Thursday, an Israeli missile attack killed Jamal abu Samhadana, a senior security official in the Hamas government. On Sunday, an Israeli air strike killed two Hamas members in Gaza.

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